Much to the dismay of experienced Michigan criminal defense attorneys, the state Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that marijuana metabolites are a controlled substance. Following the decision, the mere presence of the metabolites serves as evidence that police are justified in citing motorists for drugged driving. However, the Michigan Supreme Court recently overturned its own decision, completely destroying the precedent set by the 2006 ruling.
While driving late at night, George Feezel struck a severely intoxicated pedestrian walking in the middle of the five-lane road. Law enforcement officials responding to the scene administered sobriety tests and registered Feezels blood alcohol content at 0.09, slightly higher than the legal limit. Test lab results also showed that marijuana metabolites were also found in his system, which will remain in a persons body long after the pot high has gone. Although Feezel was found not guilty of Michigan drunk driving charges causing death, the court convicted him of second-offense drunk driving, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, and driving under the influence of marijuana.
Although the Michigan Supreme Court referred this case back to a Washtenaw County Circuit Court, they also ruled that marijuana metabolites are not a controlled substance under state law. As Michigan is now a state with legal medical marijuana, permitting the 2006 decision to stand would negatively impact those patients. In regard to the previous Supreme Court ruling, Justice Corrigan explained that people who use marijuana for medical purposes will be prohibited from driving long after the person is no longer impaired. Indeed, in this case, experts testified that, on average, the metabolite could remain in a persons blood for 18 hours and in a persons urine for up to four weeks. The majority opinion also suggested that the previous ruling was impractical, with tremendous potential for arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.
The case of George Feezel and others similar exemplify the delicate nature of implementing the Michigan Medical Marijuana Law. While in past years driving under the influence of marijuana has been treated like drunk driving, the new ruling by the Supreme Court clarifies that the two are in fact, very different. Passed relatively recently, courts across the state are still learning and debating how to properly enforce the law, ultimately making room for precedent-changing decisions. Navigating an ever-evolving legal system is a complex process for anyone to go through, that can pin serious consequences on a person. Therefore, it is essential to be proactive in securing a superior advocate for your case. Contacting hard-working and knowledgeable Michigan drunk driving lawyers immediately will not only provide tactical legal advice and representation, but also the best defense of your personal freedoms and rights.
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